Falling Dust 03

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Slow motion (commonly abbreviated as slo-mo or slow-mo) is an effect in film-making whereby time appears to be slowed down. It was invented by the Austrian priest August Musger in the early 20th century. This can be accomplished through the use of high-speed cameras and then playing the footage produced by such cameras at a normal rate like 30 fps, or in post production through the use of software add-ons such as Twixtor.

Typically this style is achieved when each film frame is captured at a rate much faster than it will be played back. When replayed at normal speed, time appears to be moving more slowly. A term for creating slow motion film is overcranking which refers to hand cranking an early camera at a faster rate than normal (i.e. faster than 24 frames per second). Slow motion can also be achieved by playing normally recorded footage at a slower speed. This technique is more often applied to video subjected to instant replay than to film. A third technique that is becoming common using current computer software post-processing (with programs like Twixtor) is to fabricate digitally interpolated frames to smoothly transition between the frames that were actually shot. Motion can be slowed further by combining techniques, interpolating between overcranked frames. The traditional method for achieving super-slow motion is through high-speed photography, a more sophisticated technique that uses specialized equipment to record fast phenomena, usually for scientific applications.

Slow motion is ubiquitous in modern filmmaking. It is used by a diverse range of directors to achieve diverse effects. Some classic subjects of slow-motion include:

  • Athletic activities of all kinds, to demonstrate skill and style.
  • To recapture a key moment in an athletic game, typically shown as a replay.
  • Natural phenomena, such as a drop of water hitting a glass.

Slow motion can also be used for artistic effect, to create a romantic or suspenseful aura or to stress a moment in time. Vsevolod Pudovkin, for instance, used slow motion in a suicide scene in The Deserter, in which a man jumping into a river seems sucked down by the slowly splashing waves. Another example is Face/Off, in which John Woo used the same technique in the movements of a flock of flying pigeons. The Matrix made a distinct success in applying the effect into action scenes through the use of multiple cameras, as well as mixing slow-motion with live action in other scenes. Japanese director Akira Kurosawa was a pioneer using this technique in his 1954 movie Seven Samurai. American director Sam Peckinpah was another classic lover of the use of slow motion. The technique is especially associated with explosion effect shots and underwater footage.

The opposite of slow motion is fast motion. Cinematographers refer to fast motion as undercranking since it was originally achieved by cranking a handcranked camera slower than normal. It is often used for comic, or occasional stylistic effect. Extreme fast motion is known as time lapse photography; a frame of, say, a growing plant is taken every few hours; when the frames are played back at normal speed, the plant is seen to grow before the viewer's eyes.

The concept of slow motion may have existed before the invention of the motion picture: the Japanese theatrical form Noh employs very slow movements.

Keywords

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